Veysonnaz (SUI) - The 2018/19 FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup season is set to come to a close this Saturday at the World Cup finals in Veysonnaz (SUI), where the top 16 ladies and 32 men will go toe-to-toe one more time in what should be a highly entertaining SBX race on an intriguing course at the Swiss resort. Finals in Veysonnaz are scheduled to begin at 14:15 CET on Saturday.
It’s been something of a brief season on the snowboard cross World Cup in 2018/19, with just four stops along the way and five races overall. Still, momentum and excitement has been building on the tour since the Utah 2019 world championships, and with an extremely tight crystal globe battle on both the ladies’ and men’s World Cup standings heading into Veysonnaz the season finale is setting up to be a thrilling ender to 2018/19.
On the ladies’ side of things the set-up for the Veysonnaz finals could not have been scripted any better, as Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) and Eva Samkova (CZE) come into the season’s final event tied at the top of the standings with 3,400 points apiece.
With third overall Michaela Moioli (ITA) more than a thousand points back, it’s all up to Jacobellis and Samkova to decide who will finish the season with the ladies’ SBX crystal globe win on Saturday afternoon, and with both riders holding identical season stats of two victories, a runner-up, and a third place result to their credit, trying to determine who’s more on top of their game ahead of Saturday’s competition is a moot point.
For what it’s worth, Jacobellis put down the fastest time in training, besting Samkova’s best run by over two seconds. However, Samkova generally runs training laps solo, while Jacobellis will usually hop on course with one of the US men’s riders, though how all of this might affect training times is up for debate. And, as any fan of snowboard cross knows, once the four-aside heats are out of the start gate all bets are off.
Which means, of course, that Jacobellis and Samkova are going to have to face down the other 14 top athletes on the tour this season, with the above-mentioned Moioli at the top of that contenders list with three previous victories at Veysonnaz, including the win last season.
With five previous podiums at Veysonnaz, Nelly Moenne Loccoz of France is certain to be a contender on Saturday, along with her teammate Chloe Trespuech, who has three Veysonnaz podiums to her name. Meanwhile, Charlotte Bankes of Great Britain won in Veysonnaz two seasons ago and currently sits fourth-overall on the World Cup rankings, and she’ll be looking to leapfrog Moioli into third on the final rankings with a strong performance on Saturday.
Over in the men’s snowboard cross World Cup it’s Martin Noerl (GER) who sits in the same spot he has since the first competition of the season in Cervinia, in first place on the World Cup standings.
However, Noerl’s lead has never been more tenuous than it is ahead of competition in Veysonnaz, with only 190 points separating him and second-ranked Alessandro Haemmerle (AUT). Meanwhile, even the 16th-ranked rider on the men’s side, Lucas Eguibar of Spain, is mathematically within striking distance of the crystal globe.
Which is to say that the battle for the 2018/19 men’s SBX World Cup title is about as close as one could possibly conceive, with any number of outcomes possible come Saturday.
Putting down the first and second fastest runs in training on Thursday was Haemmerle (AUT), who comes into competition in Veysonnaz fresh off a win at the last World Cup stop in Veysonnaz. With three previous podiums at this weekend’s venue, Haemmerle just might be the man to beat on Saturday.
The above-mentioned Eguibar, meanwhile, has four previous podiums in Veysonnaz, including victories in 2015 and 2016, and was looking like the favourite for a victory on home soil two weeks ago in Baqueira Beret before he washed out in the quarter finals. Expect him to have a strong race here in Switzerland on Saturday.
One rider who should be on everyone’s favourites list for competition in Veysonnaz is the USA’s Nate Holland, who has suggested that, after 16 seasons on the snowboard cross World Cup, he’s likely to be hanging up the race bib and retiring after Saturday’s competition. Last season’s winner in Veysonnaz, Holland has seven World Cup victories, 17 podiums, two world championships podiums, and eight X Games gold medals to his name, and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest SBX riders of all-time.
And, finally, another rider who has confirmed that Saturday will be his swan song is Austria’s Hanno Douschan, silver medallist at the Utah 2019 world championships and a 10-year veteran of the World Cup tour. While Douschan has had limited success at Veysonnaz in the past, he put down the fifth fastest time in Thursday’s training, and will be looking to end his competitive career with a bang this weekend.